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The Good Bad Boy’

To the Editors:

In Alison Lurie’s recent essay on Collodi’s Pinocchio [NYR, June 24], she quotes a critic, someone named “Lois Kunetz,” as saying, “…Pinocchio is loved the better for his misdemeanors.” She does not give the source of the quote but she seems to be referring to me—Lois R. Kuznets. I did write a book that touches on her topic: When Toys Come Alive: Narratives of Animation, Metamorphosis, and Development (Yale University Press, 1994). My book won three prizes: Children’s Literature Association Award for Best Scholarly Book of 1994; International Research Society Award for Scholarly Book; Mythopoeic Society Scholarship Award for Myth and Fantasy Studies.

In Chapter Four, “Coming Out in Flesh and Blood,” I discuss three cases of metamorphosis of “toys” into living beings: the Velveteen Rabbit, the Nutcracker, and Pi-nocchio. I guess she has taken an excerpt from this longer sentence:

There is a tendency among critics like Perella to compare Pinocchio as Good Bad Boy to Huckleberry Finn, but I think that in his final development Pinocchio more closely resembles Tom Sawyer, who arrives at his maturity by his own mischievous path, is better loved for his misdemeanors, and eventually acccedes to society’s demands.

I am always pleased to be quoted in The New York Review, but preferably with my name spelled correctly and the source cited.

Lois R. Kuznets
Ann Arbor, Michigan

To the Editors:

It is good to have Alison Lurie’s reminder of the richness of the pre-Disney Pinocchio. Her connection of the original to the bad boy story in American children’s literature is an insight into why the original Pinocchio, assignable to a recognizable American genre, became so quickly accepted in this country in the early twentieth century. Interested readers should know that there is a book-length history and analysis of the enormous American popularity and subsequent decline of the original version in Richard Wunderlich and Thomas Morrisey’s Pinocchio Goes Postmodern: The Perils of a Puppet in the United States (Routledge, 2002). They show, with meticulous scholarship, how multiple translation, editing, publishing, marketing, illustrating, excerpting, adapting, retelling (and “perversion”) of the original in this country over the years remolded the Italian story into an American cultural phenomenon.

David Mitchell
Albany, New York

To the Editors:

Alison Lurie, in her excellent ruminations on Pinocchio, says: “His name, which in Tuscany at the time meant ‘pine nut’ or ‘pine seed’…” That may be and Italians Ms. Lurie may have consulted may have told her so, but in Italian pino, “pine,” and occhio, “eye,” suggest “knothole,” a good name for a puppet.

Gerald Kamber
Loch Arbour, New Jersey

Alison Lurie replies:

I should like to apologize to Ms. Kuznets for misspelling her name, and take this opportunity to recommend her excellent book, which well deserves its many awards. I am glad to know of Richard Wunderlich and Thomas Morrisey’s book, and look forward to reading it.

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